Anchor's Up, Laptops Open and Minds Full of Ideas
       [email protected]

Come Sail Away with Us to Where Beautiful  Words Flow Like Wine​​


LAID BY
 
After the corn had been laid by, another work season began. The wood cutting season. We had to have enough seasoned (dry) fire wood for the kitchen cook stove and the sitting room set stove.

But first a few words about laid by. Sometime in mid-July, the corn was about two feet tall. Just small enough to go under the axle of the Ford tractor without being uprooted. The two cultivator teeth on each side of the row were removed. Two discs or two small plow teeth were bolted on. Both were set at an angle to throw dirt on the row of corn. This covered small weeds and provided more stability for the corn stalks.

Nothing was worse than having a wind storm in September which blew down a lot of corn stalks. Any ears lying on the ground would get wet.

The two-row cultivator was attached to the three-point-hitch at the rear of the tractor. You cultivated faster than normal. This threw more soil against the corn stalks and did a better job at covering weeds.

It was a different story before we had the Ford tractor. I remember brother Frank cultivating behind two mules. He was sitting on a one row cultivator, hunched over, big straw hat, staring at the row of corn passing below him. His feet were on stirrups. He could use them to swing the teeth away from the corn if the mules deviated from walking down the center of the row.
At the end of the row he had to pull a lever to lift the cultivators out of the ground. Then swing around to straddle another row. There is no use trying to make mules or horses back up to get on a row you want. They don't back up easily.

Usually one of the mules had a wire basket over his mouth and nose. This was to keep him from eating the tops out of corn as he walked by. Everything was done at one speed. Slow!. You couldn't increase or decrease their speed.
After the corn was laid by, we were done with it until September and corn shucking time. The mules should have been happy. Their hard all day work for the year was over.

After a few days rest, we went into the woods. Our farm had a lot of swamp, so flies, mosquitoes and chiggers were out in force. Dad would usually pick out an oak or hickory tree to saw down. They were worthless as far as money goes. The sawmills didn't want them. We would cut pines and hollies only to thin them out.

Hopefully the oak tree dad picked would have a slight lean and we knew where it would fall. If not, Dad and my older brothers would walk around it a few times and make a decision on where it would fall.
Dad and I would start sawing into the tree trunk about a foot off the ground. Both of us would be on our knees. The crosscut saw was between six to eight-foot-long with a slight bow in the center. I would pull and push on the saw. Dad would reprehend me. You are only supposed to pull. We would stop to rest for a minute and dad would sprinkle kerosene on the blade as a lubricant.

The sawing began to become harder and harder. We had to exert ourselves to pull the blade through the tree. Then we couldn't pull it another inch. The tree was settling down on our path through the tree and pinching the blade tightly. My brother Marvin came over with the maul and one wedge. A wedge is a narrow triangular pie-shaped wedge of heavy steel used primarily to split wood. He tapped it into the tree behind our blade. Then gave it a few hard whacks with the maul driving the wedge in a few inches. This usually lifted the tree from the saw.

We tried our saw. It moved easily back and forth. We were near the center of the oak tree. We were sawing an eighteen-inch swath through hard wood. We rested and dad sprinkled kerosene on the blade again.

We were eight to ten inches from being completely through the tree. It showed no inclination to fall. The others came over and all pushed against the oak tree. Dad and I sawed furiously. The tree tilted a few inches. We quit sawing and hurriedly moved a few yards away from the tree. The boys pushed harder, the tree began falling very slowly. Everyone jumped away from the trunk.

Most injuries occur at this stage. The tree may slide back ten feet from the stump or roll to either side. My cousin Archie had his ankle broken when a tree trunk fell the wrong way.

It fell with a huge crash completely to the ground, Sometimes a tree would lodge against another tree at a forty-five degree angle. Then it was another dangerous job to saw that tree down to free the oak.

Our task now was to get the trunk and limbs into manageable lengths. The cross-cut saw was used to get the oak trunk into about six foot lengths. This was before chain saws. Axes were used to remove branches and to trim off the very small limbs. Very little of the tree was not used. The small stuff was thrown into heaps. A favorite place for rabbits to hide during hunting season.
One of the older brothers would use the maul and wedges to split the logs into quarters. These logs from the trunk were eighteen inches in diameter. Too heavy to lift and too big to fit on the circular saw on the back of the Ford tractor. Also splitting it down into quarters would speed up the drying process.

One wedge was driven in the log near the end opening up a small crack. Another wedge was driven in at the end of the crack. Each time another wedge was driven in, the crack opened wider and longer. A few larger wedges were uses to open the log completely. Now we had two halves. They had to be split.

Smaller trees, a foot or less in diameter didn't have to be split. They were small enough to be lifted on the saw and small enough to fit into the sitting room stove.

All the wood was loaded on the truck and taken to the barnyard. Later on, after we were done in the woods, the circular saw was attached to the back of the Ford Tractor. Power to the saw came from the PTO. (power take off) Everything was sawed to a length of a foot to eighteen inches.

Some farmers stacked the wood standing on their ends. It made a nice pretty round heap. Not us. We threw the wood on the heap and let it lay as it fell.

Years later in the 1950's, Lois, George and I drove Mon and Dad into Canada from Niagara Falls to Nova Scotia. Driving past farms, you would see really huge piles of firewood for the long cold Canadian Winters.

Once we had the winter supply of wood drying in the yard, we greased the saw and put it and the wedges away until next year.

When September arrived we started harvesting fodder for the livestock. Usually we had two mules and a milk cow. They had to be fed during the winter. The Dept. of Agriculture studies showed it took one-third of what you grew to feed the livestock that made farming possible.

The first thing the younger children did was to strip blades. We pulled the blades from the cornstalk until we had a bundle. Then using another blade, we tied them together and tied the bundle to the stalk. The older brothers were cutting tops. This was cutting the top from the stalk just above the ear. They made a bundle of tops and tied it to a stalk to dry.

Near the house we would cut down the whole stalk and stack them together to make a shock. This is what you typically see in Halloween pictures.

Dad had made a few corn-shucking devices. It was a big nail wrapped in string and fitted into your right hand with some of the string going over the back of your hand holding the device in place. This was used to rip open the corn shuck. You peeled the shuck back and ripped the ear out. The ears were thrown into heaps along the way. Usually we threw the corn from eight rows together.

Slow work. Most of the time we had hired help to assist us. They were paid by the bushel. Mom and dad had bought the creek farm in 1936 and it was usually planted in corn. Sometimes ten acres of it was planted in tomatoes.
A black couple, Slim and Penny and daughter Geraldine lived in the farmhouse on the creek farm for four or five years. They worked at other jobs but usually picked tomatoes and shucked corn for us.

When dad thought we had a truck load shucked, it was time to pick it up, especially if the ground was moist from recent rain. If left too long on the wet ground, some of the kernels would sprout making the ear worthless. We picked it up in bushel baskets, carried it to the truck and dumped it in.
If we were picking up corn that Penny and Slim had shucked, we made a mark on the side to the truck.

We had two corn stacks or cribs at the edge of the yard. We alternated shoveling the corn into them. We spread the corn out to facilitate drying. As the corn crib filled, it became harder and harder to shovel the corn in. At the end we were shoveling and pitching corn in over our heads. We usually finished with the corn between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

We fed the mules and the cow fodder (blades and tops) all winter with a few ears of corn. The barnyard fowl; the turkeys, banties, moscovy ducks, peking ducks, guineas, grey geese, and sometimes wild ducks and geese, received shelled corn.

Rarely were they penned up. They were free range and forage critters. The yard was also full of animal droppings.

The ten thousand chickens we raised to sell were fed four or five bushes of shelled corn every day. That was one of my main jobs. To shell corn.

Rarely did the fox bother us. Usually we had four or five hounds and they slept outside. The least disturbance during the night would set them off on a howling spree.

By spring time, we had probably used one quarter of the corn in the cribs. It was time to sell most of the remainder. No small task. The corn was shoveled on to the truck and usually taken to the Berlin Milling Co. You backed the loaded truck on to a lift. It lifted the front of the truck and the corn slid from the truck into their corn sheller. The corn was sold by weight and a check was given to you about fifteen minutes later.

The remainder of the corn in the crib was used to feed the livestock and the fowl until the next shucking season. As the corn level decreased mice were everywhere. The cats and dogs were always there when we collected corn to be shelled. They had a holiday.

During the summer evenings, there would be dozens of bats swooping down around the corn crib. They were feasting on corn weevils. We would throw corn cobs in the air and watch the bats nose dive toward the ground following the cob.

The end of an era.
1978 10/1/15